Having a soft spot for the Sniper Elite series, I was overjoyed to have this fall on my desk, and as one of the very few titles out there for the Xbox One, this is a game that may see more action than it might otherwise manage. With the series going from unique, but flawed with the original to somewhat disappointing, with Sniper Elite V2, how will this next iteration fare? Can the series carry another version? To be honest, my gut says no, but I have been proven wrong before.
So, Sniper Elite 3 is a shooter of a different calibre. Rather than rely on your reflexes and twitch gameplay, you’re charged with completing numerous vital missions as a lone wolf, often behind enemy lines. Sniper Elite 3 puts you in the shoes of a grizzled man’s man, Karl Fairburne, the protagonist of the previous games, and gives you all the machismo you can handle, right the way through its dozen or so hours of play. Unlike the other games in the series, Sniper Elite is set in the war-torn strip of North Africa that was so sought after by both sides, mainly due to it’s strategic value as a supply line for oil to the Allies.
I’m not 100% sure about this choice of setting. Yes, it’s nice to have a WWII game that isn’t set amongst the battered streets of Berlin, or the cobbled streets of Paris, but the blazing sun and relatively samey terrain do tend to make the whole thing a little dull. Not being a great-looking game also makes it feel something like a budget title, but to my eye the lack of impressive graphical touches is less distracting than the design of the piece. There is a noticeable up side to the relatively low fidelity of the game as a whole, in that it runs well, with no chugging or excessive loading times. This is quite refreshing, actually.
There is a running theme with this series (not to mention the genre of sniper games), and amazingly, sniping is not it. In fact, there’s a distinct lack of it present in Sniper Elite 3. There is a special joy in being a silent assassin, enhanced wonderfully with the still-awesome kill-cam, which allows you to trace the trajectory of the bullet, right into the enemies’ heads, legs, chest, arm, balls or wherever else you see fit to place it. These points really are the highlights. Sniping under time pressures makes for a genuinely enjoyable experience, and one that is unrivalled in gaming. In terms of the actual sniping action, Sniper Elite 3 is one of the best games you can play in the genre. It deserves that, at least.
However, there’s so much of the game that simply doesn’t involve sniping. And this is sad. Really sad. There is nothing more uninteresting in a game with such an enjoyable core mechanic than running around popping brainless goons in the head with a pea-shooter. We’ll get on to the AI later, but for now, my problem lies with some really lazy game design that was probably chalked down to ‘mixing it up’. This was the element of the game that made me turn off. I, and I would guess most others, simply do not care about collectibles and clunky third-person action adventuring when there’s unwitting lobotomy targets out there by the bucketload.
There’s not really much new to the game, past the setting. This isn’t necessarily dreadful, but I think a new take on the genre is needed. Yes, in addition to taking out personnel with your rifle, you can also destroy vehicles and installations with a well placed shot or cleverly placed dynamite. This is a decent enough addition to the core gameplay of shooting goons in the head, but I wanted to see more of the great moments I remember so fondly from the first Sniper Elite game. And that is definitely a problem. The stand-out moments are too few and far between to really make much of an impression.
What also fails to make an impression is the AI. My mind is full of great examples of terrible AI that, added together, give you the strong idea that the Axis’ HR manager on the African front was somehow biased very heavily toward those with IQs of less than 10. This is quite shockingly bad stuff, and something that I, personally, don’t have too much of a problem with usually. The trouble is that it does drastically affect how involved you are in the game. Knowing that a short sprint or ladder climb will see you escape any potential threat eliminates any kind of fun to be had during the clunky third-person stealth sections. Ramping up the difficulty does make a difference, but then you’re stuck with an unforgiving game that will turn many gamers off.
I’m focussing in on the negatives here, but there are definitely positives that will make Sniper Elite 3 appeal to many gamers. The most significant of these positives is still that sniping is exquisite. Regardless of how many times I see a slow-motion bullet enter a slow-motion goon, I’m always overjoyed. There are a range of slo-mo speeds and camera types, so you’re unlikely to get bored with it from that respect. Secondly, there are some (albeit few) truly great moments that add much to keep you going through the storyline. I doubt that most gamers will see this as enough to drag them through the entire story, but without these real highlights, it would have scored significantly lower.
On the one hand, Sniper Elite 3 offers something different, with a genuinely unique take on the shooter genre. On the other, it offers something that doesn’t have the infrastructure to really impress. With so few titles on the market, there aren’t too many options, and this is definitely not a dreadful game. I just think a bit more of a triple-A attitude might have helped Rebellion bring this up from the B-title it actually is.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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